Founder’s age when company was started:
17 (now 18 years old)
Tell us about your background (education, etc)
Graduated from Brooklyn Tech in June. Grew up in Brooklyn. Will start at Hunter College in the fall, majoring in nursing.
Tell us about your company and your inspiration for starting it.
Last summer, my four year old brother and I would be outside playing, and if I turned around for a second he’d be running away down the block. Even though I always caught up to him, that moment of panic stayed with me. I took a NFTE BizCamp last summer and knew I had to come up with a business idea, and I thought up the concept that would become TattooID. In addition to keeping kids safe, it’s also a fun thing for kids – for them, safety isn’t about fun, but this is a fun way for them to stay safe.
Bootstrap or Funding? Bootstrap. I’ve used some of the prize money from NFTE competitions that I’ve won to help fund my business, but I don’t have investors.
Describe any major challenges overcome or difficult decisions while you built your business.
It’s really hard to build a team and find people who are dependable. Trust is sometimes an issue too. My success in competitions has allowed me to get some attention for my business, but sometimes you don’t always know what people’s intentions are. Keeping myself surrounded by people I know and trust is really important to me. Marketing is also a challenge – figuring out how to get the word out about my business. In terms of product development – figuring out how to waterproof my product is the thing I’m trying to figure out now.
What surprised you the most?
Starting a business isn’t as difficult as the success stories tell you it is. People talk about staying up all night for weeks. For me, I went online, did some research, and found a niche. It was about identifying a need and finding a way to fulfill it.
What would you do differently?
I would have moved faster. As a student, in my senior year of high school, I was moving slowly with my business, because I had so many other things to think about. What took me a year to do probably could have been done in about 3 months if I had had time to focus. The other thing I would have done differently is I would have started marketing my product earlier. I didn’t realize that part would take so long to build up.
Is this your first business? Yes.
How many employees do you have? I have an intern.
What has been your most effective marketing technique or tactic?
Definitely giving out free samples – you give them out and people say “wow, this actually works!” There’s nothing like seeing for yourself that a product does what it says it will.
What effect has the recession had on your business? No, because child safety is always an issue.
If you could offer one piece of concrete advice to other people, what would it be?
Really find people with the same interests as you – nothing is a solo effort, you need people behind you to accomplish things.
Best book you’ve read recently? Accidental Billionaires, it’s about the founding of Facebook.
All time favorite TV series? The Apprentice – my parents watched it every Sunday night, it was a staple in our house.
The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), is a global nonprofit that provides youth from low-income communities with entrepreneurial education sponsored The Advanced Entrepreneurship Seminar July 16th through Friday July 23rd. The Advanced Entrepreneurship Seminar was an intensive week-long program to teach kids the skills to strengthen their current business plans to make them operational. The program uses a case study format and interactive lesson plans and is taught by 2 of NFTE’s top Certified Entrepreneurship Instructors; Jamila Payne and Kene Turner. The students also met with executives from Virgin Management USA like Julie Cottineau, who is Virgin Management USA’s Brand Director, executives from Virgin Unite, and former Virgin Management staffers who have left to become entrepreneurs.
Steven Gordon, 18, is the creator of TattooID, in New York was the winner of the AES seminar and he will be competing in NFTE’s annual National Business Plan Competition in New York on October 5th. His company produces temporary safety tattoos (www.thetattooid.com ) with the child’s initials and parent’s phone number to help recover lost children. Developing his product turned out to be Steven’s biggest challenge as he had to spend time ordering tattoo paper from all over the world until he finally found a good paper manufacturer that let him order samples. Steven is very grateful for the opportunity to have met so many insightful mentors through NFTE, and he looks forward to competing at the national business plan competition this fall.